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Loyola University Medical Center Fights Against Hospital Infections

Hospital InfectionsSmall changes can mean big improvements in reducing the rate of hospital infections – Loyola University Medical Center recently reported that reduced central line bloodstream infections by 68 percent through a change in equipment. The study ran for two years and tracked the effect of switching from a scrub-the-hub catheter connection hub to an alcohol-infused hub.

According to observations by medical professionals at Loyola, 80% of central bloodline infections were related to hospital staff’s failure to scrub the catheter hub for a full 15 seconds – the timing was crucial. But the simple switch to alcohol-impregnated catheter hubs carried several benefits. First, hospital staff found it much simpler to use. Second, and more importantly, it drastically cut the number of hospital infections that developed in the arm receiving the scrub-the-hub catheter.

Central line bloodstream infections

There are not many things more devastating than have an illness or injury successfully treated in a hospital only to develop a serious, often life-threatening, hospital infection as a result. There are many types of infections plaguing medical centers and each carries its own risks and methods of treatment. According to the CDC, Central line bloodstream infection is one of the most serious types of hospital infections, claiming thousands of lives and increasing national medical costs by billions of dollars each year.

In a central line bloodstream infection, an infection invades the patient at the site of the catheter that is inserted to deliver fluids and medication into the bloodstream. Safe catheter insertion requires a meticulously cleanliness; it must be inserted in a sterile environment and the equipment and catheter site must be sterilized as well.

Added cost of equipment reduces cost of hospital infections

Given the dangers that increase when catheter insertion is not clean, Loyola experimented with using the alcohol-embedded catheter hubs to reduce the rate of infection.  And it worked. The sterile catheter hubs were more costly than the traditional “scrub the hub” catheters but well worth the overall savings. Loyola reduced the incidence of bloodline infections from 59 to 23 in 12 months. At an estimated $43,000 in extra costs per case of central line bloodstream infection, that is a savings of over $1 million.

Unfortunately, many hospitals and staff look at central line bloodstream infections as inevitable rather than preventable. Studies like the one at Loyola offer proof that making simple but smart changes can protect patients from the infections. Central line bloodstream infections are more common in ICUs than in the general hospital population. And, unfortunately, they are even more likely – up to four times as common – in pediatric ICUs than in the adult wings. The theory for the increased risk is that children have smaller veins and it is harder to place a catheter, so hospital staff tend to keep the same catheter in place for the entire hospital stay where it can gather germs.

The likelihood of infections raises exponentially the longer the catheter stays in place. The Loyola University experiment sheds a light on just how effective a simple and relatively inexpensive solution can be in the fight against hospital infections.